Charleston: what to do if you are facing eminent domain

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South Carolina Eminent Domain Lawyers Defending Residents of Charleston

If you live in the Charleston, SC area, it is possible that you have heard the term eminent domain in relatively recent news reports or have read about it in local news sources. Why has the topic of eminent domain been in the news in Charleston? According to an article in The Post and Courier, South Carolina lawmakers have been attempting to change state law over the last year when it comes to eminent domain due to the proposed construction of a 360-mile oil pipeline that could result in the taking of private property across the state. The proposed bill aimed at protecting private property and preventing oil companies from seizing private land passed, according to an article in The State.

While the construction of this particular oil pipeline likely would not have resulted in the seizing of private property around Mount Pleasant or Folly Beach, for instance, the legislation will protect Charleston-era property owners from certain future actions involving eminent domain and oil pipelines in South Carolina. As the article in The State clarifies, the South Carolina legislators who backed the bill “say it will safeguard against future attempts by . . . companies to condemn land for possible oil pipelines in South Carolina.”

But what happens if your land is condemned for a reason unrelated to an oil pipeline? For instance, what if your private property is seized in order for the government to build a school for students in the Charleston area or to create another structure that is deemed necessary for the public good? If you are informed that your property may be taken, you should know that you have rights and should contact a Charleston eminent domain lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can help with the necessary steps to ensure that you receive fair compensation.

Asserting Your Right to Just Compensation

Your very first step once you learn that your property has been condemned is to contact an experienced Charleston eminent domain lawyer to assist you with your case. Why do you need an attorney? In short, an aggressive advocate can help you to assert your right to just compensation if your private property is taken.

As a quick refresher on the terms of “eminent domain” and “condemnation,” Charleston, SC residents should know that the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the South Carolina Constitution, and The South Carolina Eminent Domain Procedure Act allow the government to seize a person’s private property when it is for the public good. Yet those laws do not simply permit the government to take property without paying for it. To be sure, the government must provide just compensation for the land it is seizing.

Generally speaking, this process is known as the exercise of the power of eminent domain in order to acquire private property for public use. The word “condemn” is used to describe the act of taking or seizing the property under eminent domain. In some cases, this process of seizure is known colloquially as a “taking.” When does a taking become illegal? In general, the condemnation of property is not legal if a property owner is not fairly compensated for the property and for her other associated losses. Before you even reach the point of being unfairly compensated, however, you should discuss your case with a lawyer in Charleston to begin asserting your rights from the very beginning.

Document Everything On Your Property

When the government seeks an appraisal for your Charleston property, one or more persons will come to your land to inspect it. It is a good idea to have your own documentation of everything on and around your property in the event that you do not receive a fair offer of compensation.

Take as many photographs as possible from as many angles as possible. After you upload your photos onto your computer, jot down any notes about specific areas of the property that may increase or decrease the ultimate value.

Negotiating Compensation and Slowing Down the Process of Eminent Domain

An article from the South Carolina Bar emphasizes that, in order to receive just compensation for your property, it may be in your best interest to slow down the negotiations surrounding the government’s seizure of the land. The government will hire an appraiser that will give an expert opinion about the value of your property. Under The South Carolina Eminent Domain Procedure Act, the appraisal will include “the assessment of general and specific benefits to the owner as offsets against any damages to the property.” In theory, an appraisal should be fair from the start, yet receiving fair compensation following the condemnation of property can be complicated. As such, by taking your time and working with your attorney, you can give yourself more time and opportunity to ensure that you are getting what you deserve.

To be sure, the government’s appraisal may not seem like it is just or appropriate compensation for your property. You should know that you have the right to challenge a government taking of your property and to negotiate the compensation you are receiving. If you do not accept an offer of compensation, however, you may soon learn that you are facing a land condemnation action. Your Charleston eminent domain lawyer can negotiate on your behalf and can work to receive fair compensation for your losses.

Contesting the Condemnation of Your Charleston Property

If you learn that the government plans to invoke the power of eminent domain to take your Charleston property and institutes a land condemnation action, you might suspect that the reason does not actually meet the standards required by law.

In addition to negotiating the compensation you receive, your attorney can help you to argue that the condemnation of your private property is not being done for a legitimate public purpose or for the purpose or benefit of economic development. You may be able to successfully contest the taking of your property through the power of eminent domain by arguing that the condemnation does not meet these requirements.

Contact an Eminent Domain Lawyer in Charleston, SC

If you live in the Charleston, SC area, it is important to understand how the exercise of the power of eminent domain and a condemnation action could impact your private property rights. According to a recent article in The Post and Courier, Charleston may soon be looking to rely upon eminent domain in order to take certain private property around Charleston. If you are facing a land condemnation action or have questions about an offer of compensation, an eminent domain attorney in Charleston can help. Contact the Joye Law Firm today to discuss your options.